What’s the best diet?
A diverse one! Especially when it comes to vegetables.
(“Eat a Rainbow” handout at the end!)
There’s an ongoing debate on what makes a healthy diet – is it vegan, paleo, keto or Mediterranean?
One thing is for sure – we need plants in our diet!
Why do we need diversity in our diet?
We all know that plants contain vitamins and minerals which are crucial for our health, but plants are also the fuel for our gut microbiome.
What’s our gut microbiome?
It’s the collection of healthy bacteria and other organisms that live in our gut. They feed on a diverse range of plant fibre and other plant compounds known as phytonutrients in order to grow and flourish.
These phytonutrients influence the function of every cell within our body in beneficial ways. Without adequate amounts and a diverse range of vegetables and fruits, the gut microbiome starts to shrink.
The purpose of our gut microbiome?
Our gut bacteria provide crucial functions, such as:
– Production of vitamins such as vitamin B12, folate and vitamin K
– Detoxifying and eliminating hormones and toxins
– Bone density
– Energy production
– Regulating inflammation in the gut and throughout the WHOLE body (an inflamed gut can equal an inflamed body – think joint pain, skin conditions, fatigue, brain fog, depression etc.)
What’s affecting our gut microbiome?
Sadly the diversity of our gut bacteria is SHRINKING, especially in the Western world.
This is largely due to poor diets consisting of refined foods, excess fat, processed meat, sugar, alcohol, pesticides and additives combined with the lack of fresh whole foods such as vegetables and fruits.
Medications such as antibiotics, NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen), antacids and the oral contraception pill also drastically impair our gut microbiome and health of our digestive system.
On top of that: stress, poor sleep, lack of movement and a lack of time in nature also reduces the diversity of gut bacteria.
Furthermore, most of us fail to hit the RDI for fruits and vegetables (currently 5 a day in the UK but it should be more like 7-8 portions per day).
In a nutshell, modern life has created the perfect recipe for obliterating our gut microbiome. And we’re now reaping the consequences!
What does this mean for our health?
This disruption to healthy gut bacteria (known as gut dysbiosis) has been linked to the following conditions:
– Type 2 diabetes
– Autoimmunities such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s (underactive thyroid) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
– Asthma and respiratory conditions
– Heart disease
– Depression and anxiety
– Chronic fatigue syndrome
– Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
– Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
– Gallstones and gallbladder attacks
– Allergies and intolerances
And the list goes on!
So what’s the solution?
The good news is – we can impact our gut health in a positive way, by giving our gut bugs the fuel they need to flourish. And that fuel is a diverse range of colourful fruits and vegetables!
We should be eating at least 30 (yes, 30!!!) different types of plants each week to provide all the different plant compounds that our gut bacteria need to grow.
Colour is vital too – we need a wide range of different colours of plant foods because the colours (pigments) actually correspond with different plant compounds that do different things. For example, dark leafy green veg = rich in vitamin K and chlorophyll, orange and red veg = rich in vitamin A and beta carotene (link to research paper on this at the end).
Download the infographic HERE which gives you some good ideas on eating a more diverse and colourful array of plant foods. Take it to the supermarket with you!
When it comes to the best diet – I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all diet for everyone. But I do know we could all benefit from extra fruits and vegetables.
Ideally, we want to have 7 portions of vegetables per day and no more than 2-3 portions of fruit per day.
How will you add more fruits and vegetables into your diet?
Include your comments or questions below, I answer each one personally.
Link to research paper: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2019/2125070/
Deanna M. Minich, and Benjamin I. Brown, “A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support,” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 9, pp. 2073, 2019.